Today, we want to share something important…
Lord William Rees-Mogg was an adviser to our business, a helpful colleague, and a source of wit and wisdom.
The former editor of Britain’s The Times and member of the House of Lords used his prestige and experience to expand our range of contacts and advisers.
20 years ago, something happened to one of them…
There was nothing especially unusual about seeing a canoe wash up on the Wicomico River in Southern Maryland. Still, locals thought it was odd. They knew the currents in the river. They knew that when boats slipped their moorings, they didn’t end up in that cove.
But there it was. And in the canoe, there was something odd, too: sand.
‘How did that get there?’ they wondered.
It was almost as if someone had put the canoe there…and anchored it with sand.
A man of secrets
We were a little annoyed with Bill Colby at the time…
Lord Rees-Mogg had made the introduction. We were paying the former CIA director for information. We kept waiting. But he said little.
We began to think he didn’t have any information.
But Colby was nothing if not calm and discreet. He lived in a modest house in Washington. He dressed modestly. He was easy to overlook. And he only told you something if he thought you should know it.
As we came to realise, there was a lot he thought we shouldn’t know.
Colby was smart and cool. He had parachuted behind enemy lines in France and Norway with the OSS (a predecessor of the CIA) during the Second World War. He had won the Silver Star, as well as commendations from France, Norway, and Britain.
During the Vietnam War, he went on to become the CIA’s station chief in Saigon. And he directed the controversial Phoenix Program…which oversaw the capture and assassination of thousands of Viet Cong operatives using US and Australian special forces units.
And then, in 1973, President Nixon appointed Colby as director of the CIA, which he ran for two-and-a-half tumultuous years.
They were tumultuous because members of Congress, led by former senator Frank Church, wanted to know what the CIA was up to. Colby told the truth, which is rarely a good idea in Washington.
Colby got fired.
And then he got whacked…
Unlike another CIA director, David Petraeus, who leaked national secrets to his girlfriend so she could produce a zippy tell-all book, Colby kept his word and his secrets.
But he was helping us understand something more interesting than secrets. He was helping us to see how the Deep State worked.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get very far. We were only a few months into our collaboration when his body was discovered, face down, not far from where his canoe had washed up.
The locals thought that was strange, too. They had thoroughly checked all up and down the shore…and dragged the bottom…to find the canoe’s owner.
Nothing came up.
Then, nine days later, there he was — as though someone had dumped him there. And where was his life preserver?
It was missing from his house. He never went out without it. Surely, it hadn’t sunk. Yet it was nowhere to be found.
‘Accident,’ ruled the Maryland coroner’s office.
We were supposed to believe that one of the coolest, most calculating, and most careful men on the planet had suddenly got up from his dinner — leaving it half finished — and decided to go out on the river after dark.
He was an old guy, said the coroner’s report; he probably had a stroke or a heart attack.
We didn’t believe it.
But we didn’t know what to believe, either…
It was obvious that the Deep State’s power was growing. Each day brought more regulations, more rules, and more special favours for cronies in a position to get them.
There is nothing new about this. There are secrets. There are dark crimes. But most of what happens takes place in plain sight of everyone.
The best explanation for this phenomenon was probably given by Vilfredo Pareto, the great Italian engineer and economist at the University of Lausanne in the early 20th century.
Pareto noted that power and wealth were never evenly or randomly distributed. Instead, a few wily ‘foxes’ always rose to the top, no matter what kind of political system you had.
Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot describes Pareto’s principle:
‘At the bottom of the wealth curve, he wrote, Men and Women starve and children die young.
‘In the broad middle of the curve all is turmoil and motion: people rising and falling, climbing by talent or luck, and falling by alcoholism, tuberculosis, and other kinds of unfitness.
‘At the very top sit the elite of the elite, who control wealth and power for a time — until they are unseated through revolution or upheaval by a new aristocratic class.
There is no progress in human history. Democracy is a fraud. Human nature is primitive, emotional, unyielding. The smarter, abler, stronger, and shrewder take the lion’s share.’
Foxes, fascists, and Deep Staters use Pareto’s thoughts to justify themselves.
Over time, they take over more and more public policies and institutions, using them to shift money from the people who earn it to the Washington elite, Wall Street insiders, and well-connected parasites all over the planet.
Then, the host weakens and the masses get restless. They notice they’ve been had. They want Brexit to protect them from the refugees. They want walls to protect them from Mexicans. And they want a saviour to deliver them from bondage.
‘I will end the special-interest monopoly in Washington,’ promises Donald Trump.
Maybe Bill Colby’s death really was an accident. And maybe Mr Trump really is sincere about wishing to shoo the foxes out of the henhouse.
Our advice: Don’t hold your breath.
For Markets and Money, Australia